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Band: An Insider's Perspective

Kethry, Teen Contributor

This is the first in a series of entries that Kethry is creating about her high school band and the secret complex world that lies beneath the surface.  In case you are wondering, Kethry rocks the trombone in the Jazz Band.


Band: an Insider's Perspective

PART 1: Social Structure

You know the kid who is super weird, has no concept of personal space, and always talks about band and nothing else? Yeah, that would be the band kid. They tend to baffle everyone and it's almost like they are another species. Look no further for a glimpse into the world of these mysterious creatures! A member of this alien species has come to enlighten you.

Band could be described as a different culture and as such it has its own rules, customs and social structure. From the outside band appears to be one big family, but social separations do exist. They can often be seen between sections. For example, the flute players stay with the flute players, the percussionists stay with the percussionists.


The Band Director

On the top of the social hierarchy is the band director.  Within the band, the director has almost absolute power.  They pick what music is being played, who sits where, who plays what part, and how the music is to be played.  Essentially, the director is akin to a deity that controls many of the aspects of band life.  The band director commands great respect and a healthy amount of fear.  Unlike a deity, most band kids consider the band director a parental figure, or even a friend.  


The Director's Assistant

Below the band director are the director's assistants. They are responsible for making sure sections do what they should be doing, preventing mutinies, keeping the band on task, helping to teach, and a variety of other tasks assigned by the band director. These, so to speak, "generals" are feared by band members. After all, the band director may like you, but if one of the generals tells him you aren't behaving properly, then the band director will be forced to act. Sometimes certain sections fear the generals if they are not of their section. At my school, the brass players (the shiny goldish colored instruments) fear the general of the woodwinds (saxes, flutes, clarinets, etc) because she is an entirely unknown entity to us, and thus is to be feared. To the woodwinds she is only mildly frightening and actually very pleasant.


Section Leaders

Third down on the hierarchy are the section leaders.  These people are students that play quite well (often the best of their section) and have the distinguished task of leading their sections.  Section leaders are required to lead sectionals (a time when the section practices and works on difficult pieces of their music together), keep the section in line, and work to have the best sounding section ever.  Section leaders could be considered the loving older siblings of the section or sometimes the dictator.  Often, they are respected, but not as much as the band director.  Being a section leader is like being the alpha in a wolf pack; people are out for your position (don't worry they won't kill you for it).


Everyone Else

Second to the bottom of the hierarchy is where everyone else is (with the exception of freshmen). This social level is where you have the cliques, AKA sections. Each section thinks they are better than all the other sections. In reality, all the sections are relatively equal.  Even though the band director says otherwise, he or she has their favorite and least favorite section. You can tell which section is the director's favorite because he or she takes almost all opportunities to compliment the favorite section. The least favorite section often receives most of the director's wrath and gets yelled at a fair amount. The most liked section is slightly elevated in social standing, while the least liked section is slightly lower in social standing.


The Freshmen (and others at the bottom)

On the bottom are the freshmen and kids that have somehow managed to make the band director angry. Freshmen are assigned this ranking because no one in the band knows them and thus people aren't sure if they like them. Freshmen are also considered annoying and immature. So, until they overcome their freshmen traits, gain acceptance from the band, or become a sophomore they remain at the bottom of the totem pole. The others occupying this level are the kids that have made the director angry. Mostly, it is through repeatedly angering the director that causes them to be "demoted". In order to escape from this level they must please the band director, fly under the radar as often as possible, or quit the band (there are more options than just the ones listed). Admittedly, quitting band is an extreme measure and only to be used when all other options have failed.

And that concludes the tour of the band's social structure. Next time we will discuss relationships in and outside the band...as well as dating.


Photo by David R. Tribble (2013).